There are unique challenges, such as quarantine and immigration. There has been a seismic shift in the league’s economic landscape. Teams have a hard time evaluating players outside of their organization. There are teams that struggle to understand why their own players fail.
Oh, and in addition to the effects of the pandemic, there’s also a sea monster lurking in Seattle that casts a shadow over all things…..
Here are five reasons why the 2020-21 NHL trade deadline is the most extraordinary in league history:
Reduction in value of first selection round
At every trade deadline, the first round draft pick is the most valuable commodity that teams try to trade for players and stubbornly hold onto opponents. Sometimes the immediate consequences are worth the long-term risk. In other cases, you’re a San Jose Sharks trade cutter who became Max Pacioretty because you absolutely had to have Craig Rivet at the 2006 trade deadline.
These kickers are valuable because with proper player evaluation, scouting and interviews, teams can find key players in the first round of each draft. About 74% of all first round picks play in the NHL. It’s hard to screw up.
Unless the team is unable to properly evaluate players because of the pandemic. The leagues have make up contests. The international tournaments have been rescheduled. Access to the arena is restricted. Individual meetings are best conducted via Zoom.
Because of this ambiguity, there were calls to postpone the 2021 NHL Draft, but the league kept it to July 23 and 24. this summer, allowing teams to throw more darts into the draft than usual.
Oh, there will be more secrets, that’s for sure, TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button told me this week. Every year in the draft, teams try to trust that this is their guy. Not having that much information or being able to observe players when you can’t meet them removes elements that contribute to that level of trust.
That’s why some general managers have told me that the first round pick at this deadline has the lowest trade value they can remember.
It’s a frightening situation for teams, one GM told me this week.
Button agreed. I think teams are more willing to take the first round pick in this year’s draft and teams are less willing to take him. I don’t see how he couldn’t be less valuable, he said. When you combine uncertainty, lack of perception, and the perception that this isn’t a great recruiting class, it can only lead to more depreciation, right?
Does this mean we will see more prospects in the futures than in the first round? It is possible. But one GM told me he still feels comfortable with the first round, even if his peers don’t.
That’s easy to say, but one could argue the opposite: As everyone thinks, I think they are the most valuable this year because we can evaluate them better than they can evaluate themselves, he said.
Watch out for the octopus!
Seattle Kraken general manager Ron Francis has been in talks with other teams for some time to pave the way for this summer’s expansion draft. Some teams have tried to get ahead of the process and make handshake agreements. They found Kraken willing to give his time to see how the deadline plays out and wait until the defensive roster is complete.
Two general managers said Seattle is now holding back. That’s to be expected.
That’s the effect of the Kraken on the trading schedule, in addition to the obvious effect of the expansion project on the workforce. Most teams will defend with seven skaters and three defenders. The last position is the most taxing for teams, as half of their defensive corps must be exposed on any given night.
Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm, for example, has one year left on his contract. If the Predators, who have suddenly come into play, want to trade him, whoever acquires him runs the risk of losing a defender from their roster, losing Ekholm, or having to make a sideways deal with the Kraken to prevent them from taking an unprotected player.
GM said this week that expansion insurance could be a cost – yes, even in this project – and/or a long-term one. Add to that what you’ve already given up to attract a player, and it really is a great investment.
Seattle General Manager Ron Francis is in an enviable position with an expansion project this summer. AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
The salary cap is $81.5 million. He’ll probably stay there next season. It will remain around this figure for the foreseeable future.
We’ve already seen how index cards affect free agency recruitment, with players who would otherwise crack the bank and settle for lower salaries or shorter terms (or both). We’ll see how that affects trade as well.
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There will be more cases than in the past where retained earnings are at issue. We’ve already seen that this year when Eric Staal made a deal between Buffalo and Montreal. We will almost certainly see him back if Taylor Hall is traded.
One phrase we’ve heard from every general manager this season is money, money when it comes to trades: one less contract for a team trading a key player, accompanied by a prospect or pick as a gift. This is a necessity because so many teams are bouncing off the roof.
A hard cap might limit the number of trades, but an NHL GM told us he doesn’t think it would prevent teams from making trades – especially since some GMs approaching the deadline are looking to cut back on their payroll.
It can weaken the effect, but it can also enhance the effect. No more despair. He said people are trying to do something.
This season, each rebuilt NHL division is different from the others. The East is predictable. In the middle of the field are four teams fighting for a place in the playoffs. West was apparently ready – before the Blues decided to open the door to the Coyotes and Kings.
And the North is indeed the scene of daily overreactions.
Comparing the rest of the NHL to the North is like comparing an old episode of Degrassi to the euphoria of NBO. The North is an aggravated reality where every victory is a TRIUMPH and every defeat a DEVASTA. This is the only division where two coaches have been fired. Whatever happens up north, one thing is clear: The reaction will be excessive.
Meanwhile, the rest of the NHL is trying not to dwell too much on a 56-game season that was marked by massive schedule disruptions, restrictive practice, game and travel protocols and the relentless mental anguish of a pandemic.
There are dozens of players and teams in the league that are having a bad year. The hard part is determining whether this decline is part of a bigger picture or a symptom of this abnormal season, and whether a team that has fallen short of expectations should be given another chance at a more traditional 82-game campaign with away and home fans.
An interesting year. It’s important. They want to make the playoffs. It will be very real for someone if they win the Cup, an NHL general manager said. But there is also an element of randomness. Some are not even close to what they should be. I don’t know if we should overdo it and send 23 year olds home if they are having a tough year. It might not just be hockey.
Yes, winning the Stanley Cup in 2021 would be an incredible accomplishment for any team. But the extended postseason with a limited number of fans in the building also has a financial downside. Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images
Win the cup, lose the money
The league is going to lose an astronomical amount of money in the 2021 season. Commissioner Gary Bettman was quick to say it would be in the billions. Understandably, the lack of fans in the arena is incredibly damaging to the league and its teams, even if it serves a greater good. But some CEOs have manipulated this economic damage in ways that surprise me:
A reward for teams that make the playoffs? You’ll lose more money.
Remember, making it to the Stanley Cup playoffs is often seen as an economic benefit to teams. Tickets are sold at full price. New goods have arrived. The hustle and bustle of the city turns on the tap for different sources of income.
But not this season.
If you make the playoffs, you lose money. If you win the Stanley Cup, you lose more money, a general manager said.
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This goes beyond the lack of ticket revenue. This is the money needed for travel and lodging for the playoffs. The money is needed to continue testing and protocols for COVID-19. All those extra costs, without the financial impact that the late season brings.
How does this affect the NHL trade deadline?
You can talk about deadlines all you want, but no one gets inspired if large crowds don’t enter the buildings, a general manager said.
If all this makes you think the NHL trade deadline is a flop, well….
To be honest, everyone is just trying to finish this season, GM said.
Three things about the NHL and NFT
1. Last week, Matthew Tkachuk became the first NHL player to release his official token without a name. He auctioned off digital sports memorabilia to raise money for two children’s hospitals. NFT made a starting bid of $5,109.71 this week and increased to $9,000.
NFT was created by digital artist Greg Dubois, who came into contact with Tkachuk through Clubhouse. A friend from college organized a room with several Canadian creatives. One of them was Sportsnet’s Sam Nasravi, who spoke with DuBois and told him that Tkachuk wanted to enter the NFT space for charity.
NFTs are interesting because there are a million and one ways an artist can go from concept to selling NFTs. For me, and for this particular project, it all started with conversations with Sam about Matthew, his famous kale and his personality in general, DuBois told me recently. The team also liked the idea of incorporating this great shot into the room. So, after some conversations and feedback, we came up with this final look and animation.
2. The NFT craze continues to permeate society, from the arts to sports to Taco Bell (seriously).
It was confusing, exciting and surreal at the same time. From an art perspective, it’s great to see how it puts artists in direct contact with buyers and gives them a way to reliably sell their work, retain the copyright, and truly own the buyer. It’s also great to see artists developing their creativity and finding new ways to combine physical and digital offerings, Dubois said.
He said athletic NFTs were a logical step in history. Products like NBA Top Shot, the Gronk issue and now Tkachuk have really picked up the spirit of what trading cards are all about, but in a much more interesting and consistent way, he said.
3. DuBois, whose work can be seen here, said the future of NHL NFT is unlimited, not just as a replacement for hockey teams. Whether it’s the NBA Top Shot, what Mark Cuban wants to do with the Mavs’ NFT ticket conversion, or how he wants to get them into the AR/VR space … There’s huge potential here for leagues, teams and players in all sports to interact with fans in ways we’ve never seen before, he said.
Put your seat belt on.
Winners and losers of the week
Winner: Buffalo Sabres.
It’s a wonder the Sabres were able to snap their 18-game losing streak in this fashion: They were able to take their second consecutive lead in the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers after losing by three on Monday. The players spoke of panic over the lead, which was given on Monday. This time they added two shorthanded goals from Brandon Montour.
Click on the history of futility and see how your trade deadline bait improves your stock? What’s not to like?
Buffalo interim coach Don Granato proudly noted that he and the coaching staff left the Sabres alone between the second and third periods. This is your third lesson. Not ours. You know what to do. And we felt like they knew what they were doing, Granato said. They absolutely got away with it under a lot of pressure. They came together, not separately.
Very stimulating… Unless the Peguls decide to go without a coach next season to cut costs. Let the players (and the coach) play!
Winner: Connor McDavid.
– Hockey Night in Canada (@hockeynight) March 31, 2021
While many were calling for a suspension, the NHL rightfully fined McDavid $5,000 for the elbow against Jesperi Kotkaniemi of the Habs. It was deliberate. It was reckless. He was also delivered first on the arm and chest of Kotkaniemi. This classifies McDavid as a criminal, but the suspension was unnecessary.
Loser: Some of Connor McDavid’s defenders
Connor McDavid faced officials who haven’t defended him in years. If he wants to give the occasional push, I don’t mind.
– Sid Seixeiro (@Sid_Seixeiro) 31 March 2021
That said, anyone who claims McDavid is allowed to elbow because the referees don’t treat him like a star is dead wrong. What is Venn’s ploy that allows Connor to be ripped off by viewers and those who have celebrated the abolition of enforcers in the NHL?
Winner: Patrick Marlo’s games
The Sharks forward is now the sole holder of second place on the NHL’s all-time list of games played (currently 1,758) and is expected to break Gordie Howe’s record (1,767) at the end of the season. Has the search for an immortal record been quieter lately? It’s Marlo.
Loser: Nashville Predators Feature Game
The Preds are climbing the rankings with Mark Borowitzki, Matt Duchene, Ryan Ellis, Brad Richardson and Luca Sbisa all injured and Phillip Forsberg missing from week to week. Still, Nashville has a 50.4% chance of making the playoffs, according to Money Puck.
Winner: Elevation of the cup
Congratulations to Boston Cup winner Isobel and the National Women’s Hockey League on the conclusion of the 2021 campaign. The bubble failed and the postseason was abruptly cancelled, but the league came together to put on a great show until the end.
It is imperative that each league finish the season, for the integrity of the league, Commissioner Tyler Tumminia told the Toronto Star. What we do here as a professional league and winning the cup is monumental at the end of the season. It’s just in the history books.
! !!!!! pic.twitter.com/rExhsaC3Au
– Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) April 1, 2021
I’m sure the NHL usually throws ammo with a bucket under his arm, Nathan MacKinnon.
From your friends at ESPN.
Emily Kaplan with a great post about winning and losing with Marc-Andre Fleury.
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